Welcome to French Polynesia! The Marquesas Islands

Flying the French and Polynesian Flags!

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The Marquesas are a very unique island group. There are twelve islands total with only six habited (by a total of 8,000 people).

Hiva Oa

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Hiva Oa

Land ho! It was very nice to reach land again. We left the Galapagos speaking Spanish and arrived into Hiva Oa where French (or Polynesian) was the language spoken. What a change! The land is full of mountains and glorious hiking opportunities. Our first stop was Hiva Oa and after walking around the town on Day 1, we headed to a hotel at the top of the hill on Day 2 for swimming, lunch, Internet and the beautiful views (with K1W1 Beanz). We liked this place so much we came back again another day (and met Widago and K1W1 Beanz). The man who owns the hotel (Jean-Jacques) is originally from a ski resort area in France, but when he came here several years ago, he met his wife and never left. It seemed to be a common story. Kevin, who runs a yacht services company on Nuku Hiva, cruised to French Polynesia several years ago, met his wife, and decided to settle in the Marquesas.

Hiva Oa Town

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The hotel pool at the top of the hill

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On Hiva Oa, there weren’t many restaurants (I think there were 4 total) but they had a pretty good pizza place which is always appreciated.  It was normal to hitchhike here, and even if you didn’t try to flag down someone for a ride, people would stop and offer you one to the marina.  We did this on a few occasions, even with the kids, because it was a LONG walk, and it is what people do here.

Another day in Hiva Oa, Dan and I had a few hours to ourselves as the kids opted to stay on the boat and do school. We went into town to the store to buy fresh baguettes and dry cat food (for Lucky Lenny, our blenny fish, and for stray dogs and cats!), went into the (closed) Gaugin museum briefly, and had crepes and salad at a small restaurant with Internet.

The restaurant for crepes

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As a side note, all I wanted when I arrived into French Polynesia was a salad, and it wasn’t until Dan and I had lunch together that I witnessed lettuce. Real, green lettuce! We take it for granted in the States, because not only do we have lettuce there, we have Iceberg, Green Leaf, Red Leaf, Romaine, Arugula, Spinach, Mixed Field Greens, Boston, Boston Hydroponic and probably more I am forgetting. What a variety! Ah, spoiled brats we are…but now I am a traveling islander seeking ANY lettuce. Damn, I am not picky. My love for lettuce prompted Dan to volunteer for the “lettuce mission.” On Hiva Oa, we learned that they have a Saturday morning farmer’s market. I use the term “morning” loosely here, because the Farmer’s Market is from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m.   In my lexicon, the definition of morning can NEVER include a “4”—that’s night—but I digress. Knowing that despite my avid adoration of lettuce I would still not get up that early, hop into a dinghy, drive into land, tie up, walk to the market and find my precious gem-quality vegetable, Dan offered to go on the lettuce mission for me. And he was successful! He arrived into town by 5:30 a.m. to secure two beautiful heads of green leaf lettuce. From what I heard, 20 minutes later, he would have come up short-handed. No more lettuce even before 6 a.m.   Oh, and there have been NO tomatoes in all of the Marquesas (apparently there was too much rain this season because of La Nina), and NO tomatoes in the Tuamotus either (which will be written about in a later entry). Now I miss tomatoes…

Me Repairing Our Jib

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Fatu Hiva

After less than a week in Hiva Oa, we opted to do a full day sail down to Fatu Hiva, a beautiful island that Captain Cook sailed to so long ago. Fatu Hiva is considered the lushest of the Marquesan Islands; it is only 10 km long and 4 km wide but packs a punch with a height of 1,000 meters. (All this international travel has me using the metric system much more than I ever did in the U.S. A thousand meters is about 3,000 feet.) We left at about 5 in the morning and arrived mid-afternoon. The bay we anchored in used to be called the Bay of Phalluses, but after the missionaries came through, they changed the name to the Bay of Virgins. Silly, really. The bay was given its original name for a REASON, due to the natural volcanic spikes that seem to “stand at attention” all over the bay. 😉 This was a beautiful bay and finally granted us some fantastic hiking.

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We sailed to Fatu Hiva with Barbara Jean and Belafonte, and were joined by several other ARC boats and a few others that were already in the bay. We had an impromptu cocktail party on our boat that evening. Interestingly, we had about 16-18 people on our boat, representing 12 nations, including the French man (Daniel) who had been living on his boat in that bay for about 8 months already. Countries represented were: Ireland, Canada, France, South Africa, Germany, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, Belgium, Poland, and New Zealand, and the United States. How cool is that? That is one part of cruising (especially with the ARC, but not exclusively) I really love—meeting people from all over the world. Being a social psychologist, this part of our trip is nearly as wonderful for me as all of the places we are visiting.

The morning after our cocktail party, a fairly large group of us (ranging in age from 10-70) decided to hike into a waterfall. It was a beautiful hike that took about an hour to reach a lovely, tall waterfall with a cold, deep swimming hole at its base. I am usually a baby with water that cold (think Canada-cold), but it sure did feel refreshing once you got in after the hot hike. The kids and Dan decided to swim under the waterfall too; our family had a great time.  We stayed only a few nights in Fatu Hiva and then we decided to do an overnight sail to another Marquesas Island called Nuku Hiva. On the way, we spent a night at Baie Hanamoenoa (Stephen’s Bay) on Tahuata Island. That was a lovely anchorage where several ARC boats were located, included Widago. Widago had a cocktail party that night and invited all of the ARC boats to attend. It was fun and the kids got to hang out again!

The Waterfall Hike on Fatu Hiva

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Typical House on Fatu Hiva

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Adorable, affectionate kitten on Fatu Hiva

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Coprah Production (Drying the Coconuts)

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Nuku Hiva

From Stephen’s Bay, our plan was to sail to Nuku Hiva for the ARC rendezvous a few nights later. I did not anticipate having seasickness on this short sail (one night), but I was hit hard. This officially became my first watch that I could not stand entirely on my own since we’ve owned Do Over. I don’t know exactly what prompted this horrible seasickness (we have had much rougher passages) but a Scopalomine Patch could not touch it. I sat at the helm with a few one-gallon Ziploc bags, and got sick about 16 times. We were sailing fairly close to Belafonte and Barbara Jean, and for the first time, I just didn’t think it was 100% safe for me to be at the helm. After two and a half hours, I had to wake Dan up.

I hate that I can no longer say I have always stood my watch. I used to pride myself on that. But I won’t be too hard on myself because it is still surreal to me that I am here in French Polynesia because I sailed here with my family—seasickness and all. That has to be worth something, right? 🙂

Nuku Hiva

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Nuku Hiva was a lovely island and we ended up staying there for about a week. Nuku Hiva is actually the second largest French Polynesian Island after Tahiti (with 330 square kilometers). We based ourselves much of the time in Taiohae Bay. Here, A LOT of people from the ARC got tattoos but I am proud to report or sorry to say (depending on your view) that no one from the Gabier clan partook in a new tribal body decoration. Some of the tattoos did look very beautiful though. We had an ARC dinner and a day of the local folks demonstrating their bead jewelry making, basket-weaving and offering up their local fruits for tasting. There was a good restaurant on the island as well, and some Internet! We also had our Genniker sail repaired here by Kevin, who owns the local yacht services company.

Nuku Hiva

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Ariana and Ryan making bead necklaces

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ARC dinner

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One of my favorite photos of the trip:  “Chicken in a Bucket”

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During our time in Nuku Hiva, we left to go to Daniel’s Bay (Baie de Taioa or Hakatea) for a night, which was only a short sail away. Daniel’s Bay was gorgeous. The scenery was incredible and it was such a quiet and peaceful anchorage. There were a few boats there and we were able to learn more about the incredible waterfall hike. It had rained quite a lot before we arrived so the trails were expected to be very muddy, and the hike itself required crossing a river several times. The hike took you to the Vaipo Waterfall, the third largest waterfall in the world. There were a handful of ARC folks who felt it would be too difficult for Ryan and Ariana to do the entire hike, but they don’t know our kids like we do! We ended up doing the entire hike without any complaints from either of our little progeny—and it was quite challenging. At one of the river crossings, Ryan started to get swept up a bit in the current, but Dan grabbed him and got him across. Sometimes the trail was not well marked, especially after the river crossings, but we managed to find our way to the end of the hike, which resulted in a view of only part of the waterfall and a bunch of waterfall spray. The whole hike was about 4.5 to 5 hours, and EXTREMELY muddy. We were pretty much covered in mud from our knees down until we hit each of the river crossings and could wash it off. One part of the trail, Ariana nearly lost her Keene shoe after she went ankle deep in mud! We also had to keep applying mosquito repellent because those mossies would get fierce near some of the river crossings. Also, there was really no place to sit and enjoy a snack along the way during this hike. Boursin cheese and crackers had to wait—so we had two very incredibly hungry kids when we got back to the locals’ houses. Which brings me to the other wonderful part of this hike. Before we ventured into the plant-filled gardens and forest, we met some of the locals who were interested in selling us their garden fruit. We told them ahead of time what we wanted and they had it ready for us when we got done with our hike. They had so many fruits! Bananas, yellow and green papayas, grapefruit, star fruit, and their “guava.”

Guava is a funny thing, because it seems to be different depending on where you are. Guava in the Galapagos was this very long and thin fruit that you peel and take the insides out and eat—and it is soft and “fluffy” and white. In the Galapagos, Guayaba is what our guava is in the United States. In the Marquesas, Guava is completely different from ours in the United States too. It is about the size of a small orange, you bite into the entire thing and it has about a quarter inch layer of orange color with a deeper core of an even brighter color with many seeds. You don’t peel it, and it is pretty good. Ariana really liked this fruit. So, we met the family’s incredibly cute white kitten and their older cat, and got to see a bit more how folks live out there.   Like a lot of families, they made “coprah” which is coconut oil. They harvest their coconuts and dry them out, ship them to the mainland, and it is made into the final product. A few of these families would cook you lunch as well. Some ARC people decided to have lunch, which included a pig roasted in their traditional manner (underground), some rice with coconut milk, and some grapefruit for dessert.

On another night (back in Nuku Hiva), we went to a cocktail party on Paw Paw (Roy and Elaine) with Nina (Steve, Lynda and crew Peter and Karen) and a few non-ARC boats from Australia and New Zealand.  That was a very fun night too!

Daniel’s Bay

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The Waterfall Hike–Crossing the River

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The Third Tallest Waterfall in the World (Vaipo Waterfall)

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An Islander’s House

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“Guava” in the Marquesas

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The Family With All of the Fruit!  

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Most Random Spot for a Working Telephone Booth

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We headed back to Taiohae Bay to have our sail repaired and to provision. After a few more days, we were off to the Tuamotus, which are low-lying atolls in the South Pacific Ocean.

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